Ever ready for a new experience, I'd said yes when Roger asked if I wanted to help at the water table Houston Community College had volunteered to staff during the run. The idea of watching 15,000 runners pass by in a matter of only a couple of hours intrigued me. So I layered up -- the weather was foggy and cool -- and we headed down to Studemont and Washington.
The assignment was fairly simple and the old hands were more than ready to tell us the best way to fill about 1000 cups of water that would be layered on our 8 ft. table. Three stacks high thanks to cardboard separating each layer. We filled ours a bit too much which meant handing the cups off took a little extra maneuvering but we were more than ready when the first runners started appearing.
The action was fast and furious so I really only remember bits --
- the questioning calls for "Water?" since Gatorade was at another table,
- the relentless responses of some of the volunteers as they took to simply repeating the word over and over again "water, water, water, water"
- the look of need in the runners' faces as they approached -- a need to grab the fluid without slowing their pace, a need to connect with my eyes to insure that I understood, a need to keep on going . . . no matter what . . . to keep on
- the countless "thank you"s that came from the grateful runners -- this thing cannot be done without volunteers and they knew it
- the incredible variety of body types and statements being made -- statements on health, battles against disease, friendships and more
- the feeling of inadquacy when the table it had taken an hour to prepare was emptied in minutes and then I stood with pitcher in hand for another hour or more filling cup after cup like some sort of neverending faucet
- the way those power packs of goo that runners love look so much like condom wrappers when they've been thrown on the asphalt and trampled
- thousands of cups that had to be scooped up (along with everything else that got dumped along the way) and bagged by those very same volunteers who had filled cups, offered them up and now would dispose of them
- and the best Mexican food breakfast I've ever had. Don't know if the follow up feast was so tasty because I was cold, wet and tired or because it was truly a great, cheap place to eat, but it was delicioso.
I did the half marathon a couple of years ago and felt afterwards that I had somehow been a part of something so much grander than a test of my endurance. This side of the excitement, I continue to feel that something more than physical tests were won that day. I love it when people prove we are not all out to surpass the next, but instead, we can run the race side by side and be grateful in the running.